Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Last of 2017 in a Nutshell


Nothing irks me more than starting off the New Year with a catch-up post from last year. I just can't seem to stay current. I'm not sure if I've ever made any kind of commitment to do so, but this year I am really going to try. Maybe I say that every year, I can't remember.

When we last left you we had just arrived in Campbellsville, KY for our seven-week stint at the Amazon Fulfillment Warehouse. We came back for a second year only because friends would also be there. As tough as the job can be, it is great fun to have RV friends as neighbors for more than a few days. It was also a great way to recoup the unexpected expenses we incurred for Scoopy's engine repairs in Vermont.

The familiar entrance to our Amazon Fulfillment Center.

If you are at all interested in the nitty gritty of what working at Amazon entails, I will point you to Bill & Kelly and Tracy & Lee's blogs. Kelly shares her personal observations in packing while Tracy and Lee get into such detail that your eyes will roll into the back of your head. By that I mean you will feel like you are an Amazon picker, because they nailed what it truly feels like hour by hour, day by day, week by week to be pushing a cart in an Amazon warehouse. It's excruciating.

Hanging out for Happy Hour with Bill, Kelly, Tracy and Lee.

So, with all that covered by others, I'm just going to focus on the fun things we did while in Campbellsville. Fun might be a relative term, frankly just sitting down after a 10-hour day on our feet could be downright giddy. Sleeping for 10-12 hours was fun for me and I did it as often as possible, which means I didn't have much of a life beyond Amazon. But, we managed a few outings, Happy Hours and dinners out, mostly at the university where the cafeteria is open to the public.

At the cafeteria food was plentiful and inexpensive. In fact, we bought a 10-meal punch ticket for around $70. After we used that up we didn't buy anymore because unlimited food is not a good choice for me, especially when it includes ice cream and hot fudge. Don't get me started on that, I have no control!

We had a visit from Jim & Diana Belisle who were passing through on their way to Florida for the winter. They mostly came though Campbellsville to mock us, because they also know the pain of Amazon, as they were packers for a few weeks last year before packing it in and saying, "never again!" Interestingly, Jim worked for UPS over the holiday season, driving a golf cart and delivering all those Amazon packages that he was happy not to be packing up! Never let it be said that RVers aren't resourceful. :)

Living it up with Jim, Diana, Bill and Kelly in Campbellsville.

Bill and Kelly hosted an RVillage gathering at Green River State Park. It was a good way for friends of friends to meet and get to know each other.

The RVillage gang at Green River State Park.

For the Thanksgiving holiday Amazon served a turkey/ham/roast lunch with all the trimmings. While it was appreciated, it was subpar at best. Because of the way our schedule was during the week, we actually got this meal twice, but the second time we brought our own lunch. The university cafeteria was also kind of industrial, mass-produced food, but there was so much of it we could always find something.

Kelly made reservations for people who wanted to meet up at a restaurant called Creekside. It's the same place we went last year, and it was pretty good. Unfortunately, they were really understaffed and ran out of dressing right when we arrived. There was no one available to restock, so Steven had to do without and he was bummed about that. Dressing is his favorite.

In my former life in a sticks and bricks, I was all about the holiday decorating and entertaining. I'm no different just because I live in a smaller space, so this year Steven and I decorated and hosted a dinner party for Bill, Kelly, Tracy and Lee. We had a good time with some tasty food! Our challenge was Bourbon Balls. We usually get one of these chocolate-dipped candies when we visit a distillery, but I love them so much we bought a pound of them at Rebecca's Candies, the place where they were invented. When they didn't last long, I figured I'd better learn how to make them for myself, so I did. Steven rolls a pretty good bourbon ball, so it was actually a team effort. We also cranked out a slew of Buckeyes, since Tracy isn't much of a bourbon drinker and she and Lee are from Ohio. We had candy balls coming out of our eyeballs, but I learned soon enough that they freeze well.

During our stay in Campbellsville, we also managed to find time to celebrate Steven’s and Kelly’s birthday, both falling a few days from each other.

Homemade bourbon balls and buckeyes, oh my!!

Epic dual-birthday celebration with Kelly and Steven (with a little help from Bill!).

Along with Kelly and Bill, we made a trip to Maker's Mark Distillery. I know there are lots more distilleries along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and we've only visited two, but I already know Maker's Mark is my favorite. It is such a beautiful property and visiting during the holidays like we have for the past two years is a special treat, as the entire property is beautifully decorated. There's the tour, the tasting, and the the bourbon ball, but my favorite things is dipping my own bottle of Maker's Mark into the hot red wax, creating the signature seal on top of the bottle. I always say I'll never break into my just dipped bottle, but it's usually gone in a week or two.

Another reason I loved Maker's Mark so much is because this year the grounds were covered in gorgeous Chihuly installations. It was beautiful!

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The Maker’s Mark Distillery is one of our favorite places to visit. The Chihuly exhibit made it even better!

We finally wrapped up our 2017 Peak Season at Amazon after seven weeks. We came into the job knowing we'd probably leave early. We finally decided to do some renovations to Scoopy and we wanted to get the quote and final materials ordered so we could have the work done in January while we stayed at the ranch.

We left ourselves a couple of weeks before arriving at the reno place in Mansfield, TX. We wanted to tour Nashville, laze by the Mississippi, soak in the healing waters in Hot Springs and generally rest up before the rush of the holidays and renovations. 

Well, things did not go as planned. In Nashville, both Steven and I got sick and were still coughing when we got to Hot Springs. The company we had selected to do our renovations turned out to be a real dud, so that didn't work out either. On their website they talked about how they had an interior designer on staff to help us make decisions, and when I asked about that service they all looked at me like I had three heads. Anyway, I don't want to get started on that experience because I will be here all night. Suffice it to say we headed to the ranch after a day of talking with them and decided to take our business elsewhere.

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Because we were both under the weather, we only spent a limited time in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Frankly, at this point, we've both sort of lost interest in renovations, it's such a pain to get done. But we did manage to have a new water heater installed, along with new kitchen and bathroom faucets. That's something, I guess. And we have a closet full of glass tiles that I hope we can get installed someday, somewhere. We'll see.

The leak in our old hot water heater froze solid at the ranch. We were so glad to get it replaced!

We had a wonderful holiday season at the ranch with my family. For the fourth year in a row Zac and Tara flew in to join us. Zoe is still working retail, but she and her significant other, Dan, arrived in early January. It was so wonderful to see her! We stayed at the ranch for a total of five weeks and were more than ready to get going on our 2018 travels.

Maddie (the dog), Zac, Anita, John and Linda at Live Oak Ranch.

Tara is in her element with one of the many bobtail cats at the ranch.

Zac helped out at the ranch by chopping a huge pile of wood for the fire. Thanks Zac, we appreciate it!

Dan and Zoe. As a certified city slicker, Dan took to ranch life quite easily. Is there a cowboy hat in his future??

Never a dull moment at the ranch, Steven and Linda’s sister Shannon relocate an old armoire.

While our container storage is being cleaned, we rented a new space for our valuables in Abilene.

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Linda and Anita cooked up a storm with dueling Instant Pots. All the food was sealed and frozen. Whew!

NEXT UP:  Steven looks back at our 2017 travels!